The government formally launched a 12-week consultation on the
future of gay marriage in England and Wales, today.
Together, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition, are
proposing via a Home Office consultation paper that civil marriage
should be available to gay couples before the next general election
This will mean that same-sex couples can make public vows and
declare that they are married in a secular service. Same-sex
couples who are already civil partners will be offered the option
to "upgrade" to civil marriage status.
The consultation also looks at the possibility of maintaining
opposite-sex marriage and gay civil partnerships.
The government is going ahead with the consultation despite
criticism from leading figures in the Church of England and the
Roman Catholic Church. Earlier this month, Cardinal Keith O'Brien
said the plans to implement gaymarriage were: "A grotesque
subversion of a universally acknowledged human right."
Yet, other religious groups, including the Quakers, Liberal Jews
and Unitarians, have welcomed the plans.
In a Home Office statement today, Equalities Minister Lynne
Featherstone said: "We recognise that the personal commitment made
by same-sex couples when they enter into a civil partnership is no
different to the commitment made by opposite-sex couples when they
enter into a marriage.
"We do not think that the ban on same-sex couples getting married
In an interview with The Independent, Featherstone accused church
leaders of "fanning the flames of homophobia."
"The essential question is not whether we are going to introduce
same-sex civil marriage but how," she told the newspaper.
A Lib Dem spokesperson told PinkPaper.com: "We are determined that
nothing is going to stop us from getting this on the statue books